In an interview last week with French Web site Puissance Nintendo, “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U” and “for 3DS” director Masahiro Sakurai discussed the possibility of patches for the game, saying that maintaining a good balance between characters is important to him.
The interview is available in French, but a forum user on NeoGAF was able to provide a translation Tuesday.
“It’s hard to tell right now but of course we always try to keep the best balance,” Sakurai said. “… I think patches are very important to keep the game balanced once it’s out. As you already know players are very interested in knowing whether a character is considered strong or weak on the Internet. … players have to ask themselves if they accept the Internet reputation of a character. It’s something we have to take into account when we will create patches.”
Sakurai was responding to a question based on his statements that he regretted not being able to patch the previous game, “Super Smash Bros. Brawl,” especially the online mode, which was notoriously hindered by lag. The lack of an online infrastructure for the Wii didn’t help things.
Sakurai’s only concerns were the problems presented by a player who has patched his game attempting to play with someone who has not, but he apparently is not aware that this is a simple fix. In most competitive games, including Nintendo’s own “Mario Kart 7” for the 3DS, players are required to download a patch once it’s released before playing online.
The interview provides, among other details about the game’s development, an insight into the director’s vision for the game in regards to both competition and quality. It is clear from hearing Sakurai speak about “Brawl” that he is keen on making this iteration a more competitive game. “Brawl” changed many of the competitive qualities of the GameCube’s “Super Smash Bros. Melee,” including reducing the game speed, removing the ability to perform an advanced technique known as the wavedash and introducing tripping, which prevented or discouraged other advanced techniques such as fox-trotting.
For many fans of “Melee,” these changes, especially the addition of tripping, were frustrating. While “Brawl” enjoys a healthy competitive community, “Melee” still does as well, so much so that it was selected by fans to be featured as one of the games at Evo 2013, the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, this weekend. Those within the fighting game community look down upon “Brawl” (if not the entire series) with disdain, sneering at it as a game for casual players.
In the interview last week, Sakurai spoke about trying to find a middle ground for both casual and competitive players.
“If you consider that ‘Melee’ is perfect for fighting game experts who are only interested in competitiveness and that ‘Brawl’ is more suited for newcomers trying to discover the series … then maybe we have to find the middle ground for the new ‘Smash Bros.’ game?” he said. “I’m not talking about changing the game system, but rather to take into consideration the level of each player.”
Perhaps most encouraging toward this end, the tripping mechanic from “Brawl” is being removed. Furthermore, the game will not feature a tacked-on story mode, the game speed is being increased and not every character from “Brawl” will be returning, perhaps a sign that Sakurai is placing more emphasis on character balance.
While these comments are encouraging to competitive Smashers, they are also puzzling. There is nothing about “Melee” that discourages casual players from picking up, playing and enjoying the game. The “Smash Bros.” series has always been attractive to the casual gamer because of its easy-to-learn mechanics. Forget the iconic characters for a moment: learning and performing all of Link’s moves in “Smash Bros.” is a far easier task than learning all of Ryu’s moves in “Street Fighter” or even Kazuya’s in “Tekken.”
If Sakurai is trying to attain the perfect balance between casual and competitive play, he needs to realize he already achieved it in 2001.